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Publishing Philip Roth in paperback


Joining Penguin Books
Peter Mayer Publisher
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So I left and I went to Pocket Books, which is where – and I didn't get along with Mr Snyder – so when the offer came from Penguin, I went for it and came to Penguin.

I took about three months negotiating my salary.  Britain at that time, it was the Callaghan period, did not pay salaries, proper salaries, they had all sorts of perks, but people were very heavily taxed, 80% or 85% 90%, I don't know what. And I said, you don't have to pay me any more than I'm earning in the United States, but you have to pay me the same.  I don't know how you do it, but I am not British, I am an American, and you want to hire me; just pay me the same, you don't have to pay me a penny more.  I don't want any free suits, they were giving free suits to chief executives at that time, hand-tailored suits and Jaguars and... You don't have to give any perks, just pay me plain and simple. Here's my contract, this is what I'm earning now, pay me the same, you've got me, don't give me any perks.  But Britain was a land of perks then, to get around this very heavy taxation. 


Peter Mayer (1936-2018) was an American independent publisher who was president of The Overlook Press/Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc, a New York-based publishing company he founded with his father in 1971. At the time of Overlook's founding, Mayer was head of Avon Books, a large New York-based paperback publisher. There, he successfully launched the trade paperback as a viable alternative to mass market and hardcover formats. From 1978 to 1996 he was CEO of Penguin Books, where he introduced a flexible style in editorial, marketing, and production. More recently, Mayer had financially revived both Ardis, a publisher of Russian literature in English, and Duckworth, an independent publishing house in the UK.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Pocket Books, Penguin Books, James Callaghan

Duration: 1 minute, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015